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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
There won’t be any surgery and the long-term prognosis is good, butafter breaking his left ankle last weekend at the World Cup in Fort William,Scotland, it will be at least 8 weeks before American Brian Lopes is backracing his bike.
That means the reigning world, World Cup and NORBA champion will missthe next three World Cups and the next three NORBA stops, and it takeshim out of the running for the big prize money on offer at the Jeep Kingof the Mountain series set to commence later this month.
Despite all this, though, Lopes says the worst part is all the downtime he’s going to have to deal with.
“I really not much for sitting around the house,” admitted Lopes, who’salways had a reputation for spending long hours in the gym. “I’ll probablytry to go work on upper body stuff and maybe get in the pool as soon asI get my new cast [on Monday].”
After suffering the injury last Saturday during the first round of thefour-cross finals and spending some time in the hospital there, Lopes b-linedit back to the States, and was in his doctor’s office in Newport Beachjust hours after landing in California on Tuesday.
“Basically I broke the outside bone of my left ankle,” he explained.“There’s a couple little breaks, but they’re all in one small spot andmy doctor said it’s a good break that should heal fine without surgery.I still have to find out about the ligaments, which I’ll do when they putthe new cast on, but the doctor said that looking at the x-rays all thesoft tissue looks fine.”
So what’s it all mean? “Probably 5 to 6 weeks in the cast, then rehab,”said Lopes. “By 8 weeks he told me I should be 100 percent. I hope that’strue because that would give me one month to get ready for world’s andmaybe a shot at doing the NORBA finals in Durango.”
As for what happened Lopes held no ill will, saying it was just partof racing.
“It was a real short first straightaway and the first [course marking]flag forced the outside guys to the inside,” he explained. “Dale Holmesbumped me just a little bit, and we were both picking up [our front wheels]at the first jump and it threw me off balance. I’m not positive, but Ithink I must have come unclipped and pile-drived my foot into the faceof the takeoff.
“It was one of the more painful ones I’ve ever had. I thought I wasgoing to look down and see bone sticking out of my leg.”
This is the second time Lopes has broken an ankle in his long mountain-biking career. Four years ago during his first season with the Volvo-Cannondalesquad he broke his right ankle.
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While he won’t get a chance to see it first hand, Lopes said he gota report from friend and fellow Southern Californian Eric Carter on thefour-cross course at l’Alpe d’Huez, site of the second round of the WorldCup. “He said it’s the worst one he’s seen since West Virginia,” said Lopesof an instant messaging session he had with Carter. “He said it’s straight,fast and has no berms, and it’s so rough you almost need a downhill bike.”
I spoke briefly with Canadian Ryder Hesjedal on Wednesday, and he toldme his main reason for skipping the Fort William World Cup was so thathe could focus all his energies on the NORBA cross-country series, whichhe is leading after winning the opening race at Big Bear.
“That’s what I’m going for and I wanted to give myself the best chancepossible,” he said, adding that his strained calf muscle is all but healed.“By coming home early [after dropping out of the St. Wendel World Cup andnot making the trip to Scotland], it gave it some time, and it was importantfor me to get back home to do some basic training.”
Hesjedal had been keeping an extremely hectic schedule, which includedtwo other trips to Europe to race with the Rabobank development team duringthe spring.
The French dominated the downhill at Fort William, and now they’llbe racing on home soil at World Cup round 2 at l’Alpe d’Huez. Plus it’s likelyAnne-Caroline Chausson will be making her 2003 debut. It all adds up tolots of airtime for the French national anthem. Here are the VeloNewspicks:
DOWNHILL: Mickael Pascal, Anne-Caroline Chausson
FOUR-CROSS: Cédric Gracia, Anne-Caroline Chausson